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‘He is doing a phenomenal job’: Dereck Lively II returns with impressive effort in victory

Rookie Dereck Lively II returned from a five-game absence and had a productive outing on Monday to help the Dallas Mavericks defeat the New Orleans Pelicans.

Lively recorded six points, 12 rebounds and one assist in 26 minutes in the 125-120 win at American Airlines Center. He hauled in seven offensive rebounds in the contest, including three in the fourth quarter, to help the Mavericks complete the comeback attempt.

The Mavericks overcame an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit and did so thanks to Lively’s effort to create extra possessions. On one sequence, Lively pulled down two offensive rebounds, which led to a 3-pointer by Tim Hardaway Jr.

The effort didn’t go unnoticed by coach Jason Kidd.

“I thought late in the game, he came up with some great opportunities for us to get second or third opportunities at the basket, which we needed,” Kidd said. “For his first game back for a while, I thought he did great and we missed him. We’re happy that he is back.”

Lively returned to the starting lineup after suffering a sprained left ankle on Jan. 3 against the Portland Trail Blazers. He also missed four games last month due to an injury to the same ankle, which saw him placed in a walking boot for some time.

He was happy to be back on the court with his teammates.

“It was terrible sitting on the sideline throughout that injury just working my body back,” Lively said. “It feels good to be back out there with my family, being able to move the ball around and trust each other. It feels great to build that chemistry again.”

Lively has started in 29 of his 30 games, averaging 8.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.3 assists on 72.7% shooting from the field. He ranks among the rookie leaders in several categories, rebounds (second), offensive rebounds (second) and blocks (third).

The 19-year-old has emerged as a key player for the Mavericks. He has given the team a tremendous presence in the paint and has helped protect the paint with 42 total blocks on the season.

“He means so much to this team,” said Hardaway, who had a season-high 41 points. “He does an amazing job of clogging up the paint, talking on defense, blocking shots. He is a really great anchor down there for us on the defensive end and helps us tremendously. … He is really doing a phenomenal job.”

Lively has earned praise from several teammates for his effort throughout the year. The words of encouragement have helped him maintain his confidence on the court and work to elevate his game to the next level to help the team even more.

“It is an amazing feeling, but it doesn’t mean you can be satisfied with just hearing that,” Lively said. “Just because I feel like an important piece doesn’t mean I can take my foot off the gas. It makes me want to get in the gym and work harder, because of what I’ve done so far, if they like that, it just means I can keep growing and keep showing more.”

Story originally appeared on Rookie Wire